Gangster film that's soap opera

KL Gangster 2 (M18)
Crime drama/119 minutes

Rating: 4/5

There's a tense scene in KL Gangster 2 when a character describes the moment as that of a Latin drama.

He's not too far off the mark; writer-director Syamsul Yusof's follow-up to 2011's KL Gangster is, at heart, a soap opera, where covert alliances are formed and double-crossings come aplenty. Many characters shout and weep, only with more swearing and gunfire.

It is this world of parang-wielding prima donnas that the protagonists, brothers Malek and Jai (Singaporean heart-throbs Aaron Aziz and Adi Putra, respectively), find themselves in, after the death of their debt-ridden dad.

Jai, the black sheep of the family, becomes a drug dealer to quickly pay off the loans. The older, filial Malek defends their mother (Ku Faridah) and sister (Sheera Iskandar) from loan sharks while eking out a living as a humble mechanic.

Meanwhile, one of Kuala Lumpur's most fearsome crime lords, Tailong (Rosyam Nor), is taking over the city by assassinating rival gang leaders and moving into their territories.

Tailong's aggressive conquests do not sit well with the capital's underworld kingpins, especially Malek's childhood friend, King (Riduan Hashim), and his stepson, Shark (Syamsul). King turns to Malek for help, but the law-abiding latter politely refuses. However, when tragedy strikes Malek's mother, the good son is forced down a vice-laden path of no return.

KL Gangster 2 is actually a prequel to the first film and was made to the tune of RM4.5 million (S$1.7 million). The money was put to good use, as there are heaps of action set pieces, from a full-scale brawl in Petaling Street to a car-chase finale that wouldn't look out of place in a Michael Bay flick.

The razor-sharp dialogue is also one of the movie's strong points. King and Shark's right-hand man, Ajib (Sofi Jikan), is as gifted with his tongue as he is with his fists. Hearing him rattle off rhymes effortlessly while taunting his opponents is one of the film's highlights. So is Adam Corrie as Dragon, a member of Tailong's crew who spews Cantonese vulgarities in all their undubbed glory.

Rosyam chews the scenery as the avaricious Tailong, who also happens to have a good sense of humour. There's a witty quote from the merciless mobster involving a wordplay on coconuts and heads that got a laugh out of me.

I also love how some of the characters have little mannerisms: Jai, for example, chews on an unlit cigarette stick, while Fadil - a friend of Malek who's a wannabe wise guy, played by the hilarious Zizan Razak - wears a pair of 3-D glasses like they were Aviators.

However, a minor issue I had with the film is its tendency to preach to the audience.

There's a sub-plot involving Malek's mother as his conscience personified, and while her scenes lend gravitas to the brothers' transgressions, they are to the detriment of the movie's pacing.

There is another sequence in which a mob disable two policemen and overturn a patrol car, only for the cavalry to show up and conveniently arrest them. These moral disclaimers end up sucking the fun out of what is essentially an escapist fantasy.

Still, there is much to recommend if you're a fan of the first film, or of action flicks in general.

As long as you can overlook the melodrama and heavy-handed sermons, this KL Gangster packs enough heat to give you lots of bang for your buck.

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